Nashville is finally beginning to settle down again after the big excitement the other day. Yep, Tennessee’s favorite son was in town again, this time for a big political rally to announce his vice presidential running mate.
It was considered a history making occasion since his choice happened to be Jewish. Lieberman seemed okay and even made a joke or two – but nothing worth repeating. Of course, Al Gore’s invention of the Internet is, admittedly, a hard act to follow.
The heat index topped 100 degrees, and the sun was sizzling, but I thought it was my demented duty as a humorist to cover such a monumental occasion in case I might need to make fun of it later.
The event was scheduled at noon to coincide with the downtown office worker’s lunch hour and help to swell the crowd. It isn't every day that office workers get to see history being made conveniently during their lunch break. Heck, the most exciting thing around our office normally is a new item in the vending machine.
The fence was put up the day before, the stage was built with appropriate patriotic backdrop, and the port-a-potties were lined up for duty on the sidewalk in front of Legislative Plaza. Media arrived prior to the big occasion. Even
CNN was there to cover the event.
Reporters rolled by in strange looking vehicles with satellites on top that descended on downtown and settled on 6th Street like a flock of alien aircraft, giving an air of excitement and importance.
Streets were closed and blocked by police vehicles as herds of curious people stomped by, filing through metal detectors like cattle into a corral. The choicest meadows went to the red ticket holders, presumably party regulars and favored dignitaries, guaranteed to perform well in front of a camera.
Humor columnists ranking pretty low on campaign priority lists, I didn’t have a red ticket, only a white one that I had scrounged up at the last minute from a co-worker back at the office.
I waited in line for a while with the other cattle, but soon decided it was too hot to play rodeo, besides I wasn’t going to see anything in that mob even if I got through the gate. Thinking fast, I decided to take my chances with the chiggers and go for a spot in the grass on Capitol Hill.
Actually, the view was pretty good looking out over the crowd. It was about the biggest crowd I’ve seen at Legislative Plaza since the Mayfield company was there last week giving away free ice cream. Police sharpshooters looked down on us from the rooftops of the surrounding buildings, lest anyone should have any political differences they felt compelled to express with firearms.
The enthusiastic crowd did a slow melt in the sizzling sun as folk singer, Jewel, entertained and complained about the heat. I could feel the trickles of sweat running down my body beneath my dress. It certainly had to be one of the warmest receptions a candidate could receive, in more ways than one. The crowd got even hotter as the candidates arrived, actually getting there almost on schedule.
Spectators stood to cheer, and show off their two-for-five political buttons purchased from the street vendors. The candidates were so far away it was pretty hard to see them, but I’m fairly certain that tiny spot with the Dilbert tie was Gore – it sounded like him and looked stiff. The other distant speck standing beside him was supposed to be Lieberman. I had a hard time deciding who was stiffest.
The speeches were pretty much the usual campaign rhetoric with the crowd cheering after every promise, especially when the word "Tennessee" was mentioned. Seems the new VP hopeful has a granddaughter named "Tennessee" and that was good for a bunch of extra flag waving. He should have named her California or New York, states with a bigger electoral vote.
The campaign literature found creative uses as people folded it for fans to try and keep cool. I found a wall to stand on and made pictures of the crowd cheering and the distant specks waving back. I tried not to think about where I would fall if I passed out from the heat.
Without a powerful telephoto lens, it was impossible to get a decent shot of the man himself. I did, however, get some snapshots of the wooden Indian in front of a tobacco store. I figured that was close enough and no one would know the difference anyhow.
As the speeches got longer and the sun became hotter, I decided that lunch break was about over and I’d better get back to the office. It took most of the afternoon to cool down and gallons of water before I quit feeling dehydrated.
The show went on the road the following morning and moved to Carthage, the Presidential candidate’s hometown. I hear that traffic was tied up on Interstates all over
town by the motorcade. Since the Interstates here are all connected, a jam on one can eventually create gridlock in most of the city.
If Gore gets elected we have at least four more years of traffic jams to look forward to, I suppose. Gee, wouldn’t that be great? No, no… not the traffic jams. I was thinking of four more years of prime material to make jokes about.